The FWO assesses each request for assistance we receive involving a workplace dispute, including the circumstances and issues, on a case-by-case basis. We may provide education, advice and various dispute resolution tools to assist parties resolve instances of potential non-compliance before they escalate into formal disputes. This approach helps maintain productive, harmonious and cooperative employment relationships and enables the faster recovery of unpaid wages.
The FWO completed 19,544 workplace disputes (89% of all disputes) through our advice, education and assisted dispute resolution services.
Where employees and employers need assistance to resolve their workplace issues, we may refer them to an early intervention specialist in the first instance.
The early intervention specialist tailors advice in response to the issues raised and the needs of the customer in order to promote compliance with workplace laws. This can include discussions with one party or both parties, with a focus on:
- supporting parties to have effective workplace conversations to resolve workplace issues
- advising customers how to raise concerns with their employer or employee and assisting them to do so
- providing advice and education in relation to workplace rights and obligations
- beginning a mediation where appropriate
- referring a matter to an inspector for possible issuing of a compliance notice or a broader investigation.
We completed close to 17,000 disputes through early intervention in 2019–20. Of the nearly $19.2 million recovered from our education and dispute resolution activities in the last financial year, over $14.4 million came from early intervention, amounting to 75% of our total education and dispute resolution recoveries.
We mediate workplace disputes where the parties consent. In 2019–20, our accredited mediators worked with parties to complete 1808 disputes and recovered nearly $4.3 million in unpaid wages.
In addition to monetary settlements, outcomes agreed to by the parties can include apologies, changes to working arrangements and the return of goods and documents.
Small claims assistance
Customers can seek our assistance with lodging a matter in the small claims court. This avenue is available to both employees and employers for matters where the claim is for less than $20,000.
Our assistance team helps customers in a number of ways, including:
- drafting a pre-claim letter to the employer
- discussing different court options
- preparing and presenting calculations
- completing court forms, such as applications and responses
- explaining different stages of court processes
- filing and serving court documents.
In 2019–20, the FWO provided information and guidance to assist 791 people with small claims, recovering $252,203 in unpaid entitlements.
FWO lawyers also attend small claims hearings as a 'friend of the court'. In this capacity, we don't act for either party but can assist the court and the parties on points of law or procedure. In 2019–20, the FWO attended as a friend of the court in 220 matters.